BYRON — At its Tuesday night meeting, the Byron City Council will hear about – and give its last bit of direction for – the U.S. Highway 14 Corridor Analysis Project.
Started in 2019 as a cooperative effort between Olmsted County, Dodge County, the cities of Byron and Kasson, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the project has been an effort to build off past studies and reach a final agreement on the layout and design of the highway between the western edge of Rochester and the city of Kasson.
In February, it is hoped all four governmental jurisdictions and MnDOT will agree to the conclusions of the analysis and the future map of Highway 14 will be set.
"This brings it down to where the interchanges will be," Byron City Administrator Mary Blair-Hoeft said.
Provided there are no changes before the plan is approved in February, the analysis recommends interchanges at Olmsted County Road 104/60th Avenue, just west of Rochester, Olmsted County Road 3, which is the last intersection before the eastern stoplight in Byron, Olmsted County Road 5/2nd Avenue in Byron, and 260th Avenue in Dodge County, just east of the current interchange at Kasson.
Knowing where the interchanges will benefit landowners and developers as well as each community.
Landowners along the right of way have hesitated to develop their properties over concerns about whether an interchange will be built or if the road path itself will move, Blair-Hoeft said.
For example, developers have approached the owners and city concerning the golf driving range on the south side of Highway 14 in Byron about commercial development in that area, but development proposals have been put on hold because of uncertainty concerning the road and interchanges.
Guy Kohlnhofer, Dodge County engineer and a member of the committee doing the analysis, said that in addition to the interchanges, Highway 14 will be moved slightly to the south as it passes through Byron.
However, no one should start planning their alternate routes just yet. The project is designed to set a map for the future, but the project – or, more likely, series of projects – won't get started for several years.
County Road 104 is currently a project looking for state funding and is likely the first piece of the puzzle to be done. While there were no fatalities at the intersection with Highway 14 from 2014 to 2018 – the years used in the analysis – there were 44 crashes and it is rated the most critical intersection.
Safety, Kohlnhofer said, is a big part of the study and its goals. For example, at County Road 3, while an interchange is proposed as a long-term solution, interchanges run between $10 million and $14 million. Instead, in an interim reduced conflict intersection will likely be installed at less than $500,000 within a few years. Reduced conflict intersections are those where there is no direct crossover, and J-turns or other options are used to keep traffic from crossing four lanes of busy highway at once.
"The funding for it will all be interchange by interchange," he said.
By getting the big-picture planning done, cities and counties can start working on development along the corridor now knowing where the road will eventually go, Kohlnhofer said.
"You don’t want a house or a business where there’s going to be an interchange," he said. "It’s a big deal that we finally get it down on paper where these accesses are going to be."